Campsite impacts and the limits of acceptable change planning process : a case study of the Jedediah Smith Wilderness
Grossenburg, Chad G.
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The Limits of Acceptable Change (LAC) planning process is a means by which planners attempt to preserve naturalness while facilitating public use in federally designated wilderness areas. The biophysical condition of campsites is often used as one indicator of naturalness in LAC plans. Despite the emergence of scientific methods to monitor campsites, campsite standards often neglect to reflect the findings of this science. The LAC process was used in Wyoming's Jedediah Smith Wilderness, which is situated east of fast growing Teton County, Idaho and west of popular Grand Teton National Park. Teton County and many other Western counties next to wilderness have outgrown other counties further from wilderness. Grand Teton Park receives tens of thousands of backcountry campers that may access the Wilderness depending on the degree of connectivity between the two protected areas. Many other wildernesses also share borders with popular national parks.Campsites were analyzed for changes in biophysical condition and distribution from 2001 to 2006. A sample of the origins of Wilderness users was taken to determine campsite use by recent migrants and residents of Teton County and recreationists entering the Wilderness from Grand Teton Park. Existing campsite conditions improved but the distribution of campsites changed significantly. These findings show that indicators of campsite conditions need to focus not only on the biophysical condition of campsites, but also on the spatial aspects of campsite proliferation and recovery. Teton County residents rarely use the Wilderness for overnight outings and thus have little influence on campsite conditions. However, because these recent migrants and residents often day hike, opportunities for solitude may be diminished. The vast majority of recreationists entering from Grand Teton Park were found to be overnight campers. Therefore, these users have a relatively high degree of influence on campsite conditions.